Head to the Ohlone Wilderness in No. Calif. for Spring Backpacking

The San Francisco Bay Area is famous for preserving a lot of its natural spaces despite the seemingly unending onslaught of housing developments.

In the San Francisco East Bay, near the town of Livermore, is the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, which transverses three regional parks. Bruce and Wild Bill Light Backers Along the way is Rose Peak, at 3,812 feet the second highest peak in the Bay Area. Ohlone, named for a group of American Indians, is accessible from several points, but my backpacking pal Wild Bill and I entered off Highway 680, south of Livermore and hiked 10 miles to the top of Rose Peak and back. Along the way, we crossed rolling hills dotted with stands of oaks.
Rolling HIlls

Our camp was only about 2.5 miles in and then we day hiked to the peak. Since we arrived late in the evening the day before, having our backpacking site close was a godsend.

In the first two miles is the gushing Alameda Creek with an area of waterfalls and narrow canyons known as the Little Yosemite. A real photography beauty spot.
Little Yosemite Falls
This is a good place to go now (We were in Ohlone on March 29 last year): the temperature is moderate, the hills are green and the wildflowers are abundant. It’s not unusual to for days to reach the high 60’s and low 70’s.

With winter still covering many of the mountain trails (not for much longer with the dry weather), this is a good early backpack. Time to try out all that new lightweight and ultra light equipment.

Permits required. The link above will provide all the details.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

MSR Hubba 1-Person Tent – Lightweight with Easy Access

On my recent trip to visit a friend in Lake Shastina, in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, I checked out a couple of backpacking shops in the nearby town of Mt. Shasta. It’s a vibrant little community, which serves as a crossroads and supply station for hiking, backpacking and climbing.

In one shop I discovered the MSR Hubba Solo Fast & Light Tent one-person tent, a roomy shelter with a side entrance for easy entrance and exit.

In consulting the 2007 Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide, I found that it is listed as a “freestanding, dome 3-season tent with minimum weight of 2 pounds, 13 ounces” (which fits my definition — any tent 3 pounds or less–of lightweight).

In case you’ve forgotten, the minimum weight includes tent, fly and poles while packed weight refers to everything supplied, including tent, poles, stuff bags, pegs. Not sure why they wouldn’t include pegs. I guess if the tent is freestanding you could leave them at home, but that doesn’t seem advisable.

The tent peak is 40 inches. My own Sierra Design Light Year tent is 38 inches high and that allows me to barely sit up (I’m 5’10”). So 40 inches is better.

A nice added feature — which is also similar to my Light Year — is that you can use the “fast pack” mode and bring only the ground cloth and fly, which connect. Or just use the self-standing fly as a tarp. This is a good feature, allowing you to get tent weight under 2 pounds — like when the weather is warm, there are no bugs out and you only need minimum shelter.

Above, all else — whether you choose this tent or another — find one with a full side entrance. Getting in and out is so much better than backing in from the top.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

With Snow Melting Fast, Consider Backpacking to Mt. Eddy

As I said in my last post, I figure we can get into the mountains for backpacking or hiking early this year, based on the snowpack and my trip this past week to visit a friend in Weed, a tiny town at the foot of Mount Shasta.

Snowcapped Mount Shasta

Shasta, which is more than 14,000 feet, is absent of snow from about 8,000 feet down. That’s just my observation.

By mid April — if warm weather continues — you might consider heading for Mt. Eddy. I hiked to the top of the 9,000 peak a few years ago on the recommendation of Tom Stienstra, author of Foghorn Outdoors California Hiking: The Complete Guide to More Than 1,000 Hikes and outdoor writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. This is one of his favorite hikes.

From the trailhead, you hike three miles to Deadfall Lake where you can create a basecamp. From Deadfall, you can walk up the four miles, along switchbacks, to the top.

Your prize when you summit the peak (just a large flat area which requires no technical skills or scrambling) is the feeling (in the words of one geologist) like “you are on top of the world with panoramic views of Mt. Shasta to the east, Mt. McLaughlin to the north (in Oregon), the Trinity Alps, Castle Crags and even Mt. Lassen to the south.

Unfortunately, the year I went forest fires just about everywhere in the area obliterated all but the tiptop of Shasta and left an ugly haze over the Trinity Alps.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backpacking Season Approaches: Where to Go First

I saw on TV last week that the snowpack is only 64 per cent of normal. That means the snow will melt sooner and we can get into the mountains earlier.

My pals Wild Bill, the Duke and I have a trip planning get-together in a couple of weeks.
Some of our possibilities: The Dardenelles, Yolla Bolly Wilderness, the Eastern Sierra, King’s Canyon, Redwood National Park and the Marble Mountains.

Our backpacking season — we don’t go in winter — is March through October. We’ve actually begun earlier and ended -later. In one hiking club I belonged to, they began at Memorial Day and ened on Labor Day. Of course, they missed some of the best times for getting out on the trail.

So, what do you do while waiting for the snow to thaw?

I realize that the Web is worldwide and my own range is pretty much limited since I spend the backpacking season in Northern California. However here are two favorites:

• Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – this loop takes you up a ridge covered with virgin, old growth redwoods and drops you down onto the a wide sandy beach. Although it’s only six miles from the trailhead, the campsite feels secluded. You return up a prehistoric looking fern canyon that takes you through Elk country and back through another six miles of virgin redwoods along the James Irvine Trail. Both the Fern and James Irvine Trails are closed until May. Not sure if this a water/flooding thing from heavy rains or as a result of the mountain line attack (the victim survived and two mountain lions in the area were killed). But this is a spectacular trip. Permit required. No bear canisters.

• The Lost Coast (230 miles north of San Francisco) – this takes you 24.8 miles from the head of the Mattole River in Humboldt County to the Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove. The abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse at mile three is a great diversion. Driftwood shelter strewn beaches at Miller and Spanish Flats make protected camping spots with plenty of firewood to stay warm. No permit required. Bear canisters required.

Be sure to get a tide book, because several places are impassable at high tide.

-Punta Gorda (2.9mi)
-Sea Lion Gulch to Randall Creek (4.5-8.4mi)
-South end of Miller Flat to 1.5mi North of Gitchell Creek (16.7-20.7mi)

This this is an one-way hike, you will probably want to park at one end and get a shuttle to take you to the trailhead.

The car shuttle takes about 5 hours round trip (45min from Black Sands Beach to 101, 15min on 101, 1 1/2 hrs to Mattole, and back).

Commercial Shuttles (always call in advance!):
Roxanne@saber.net at www.lostcoasttrail.com: (707) 986-9909
Shelter Cove Camp Ground Store & Deli: (707) 986-7474

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Lightest Two Person Tent – Black Diamond HiLight A Candidate

Backpacker Magazine’s 2007 Gear Guide lists the Hilight Tent – 2 Person by Black Diamondas the lightest two-person tent. At 2 pounds, 10 ounces, it’s definitely among lightest — certainly among free-standing tents (those you can pitch without staking down). My own Sierra Design Light Year, a solo tent, weighs in at about 3 pounds, pretty heavy these days, but still what I would put in the range of lightweight.

The Highlight apparently pitches drum-tight with only four stakes.

One reason the tent is light is because there is no vestibule. If you’re going solo, then you could simply pull in your gear and still have plenty of room to stretch out. But two people, it appears, would need the vestibule — and guess what — it’s $140 and 15 ounces of extra weight.

Of course, two people can share the weight. But this looks like a better candidate as a solo shelter.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.